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Position battleground (offense): Cowboys at Chargers head-to-head breakdown

A positional head-to-head breakdown of the Week 6 matchup between the Cowboys and Chargers on offense.

Los Angeles Chargers vs Dallas Cowboys Set Number: X163816 TK1

After a tough week of reflection it’s time to move on and look ahead at this week’s matchup for Week 6, where the Dallas Cowboys face the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium. In a head-to-head battle, which team has the better offense by each position group?

Dak Prescott
Justin Herbert

Let’s not sugarcoat anything from last week’s performance, Dak Prescott played a horrific game. He was missing receivers on his reads, his ball placement and accuracy on underneath passes was off, but just as concerning was his mobility, which was noticeably slow. Since his injury two years ago, Dak hasn’t looked the same. But against the San Francisco 49ers it was very obvious and he was getting caught by the linebackers from behind. In the past Dak would have run from those guys and got the first down off to the sideline. In Dak’s defense though, the play-calling against the 49ers didn’t help him. A lot of stop routes and dig routes that never changed during the game which helped the 49ers defensive backs and linebackers. The lack of separation from the wide receivers is testament to this, with only CeeDee Lamb having an average yards-of-separation over two yards.

This week the Cowboys are favored to win against the L.A. Chargers and whenever the Cowboys get beaten like they did last week, the following week they come out swinging. Dak will definitely want to prove to everyone it’s not all falling apart on him and be much more efficient. He’ll certainly want to protect the ball more and not throw three interceptions in one game. The good news for Dak is the Chargers defense is ranked last in passing yards allowed and has only forced three interceptions this year. The Charger’s defense also ranks 11th-worst in first downs allowed through the air and have allowed the seventh-most passing touchdowns this season.

Justin Herbert faced the Cowboys early in his career in Week 2 of the 2021 season. The game was close and ended in a Cowboys win, but the one player that kept the game close was Herbert. During that matchup, he ended the game with 31 completions for 338 yards and a touchdown. Since then he’s developed and now has Kellen Moore as his offensive coordinator, which is an ideal paring for the offense. This season, Herbert ranks sixth in passing yards per game, with 276 yards per game. He’s also thrown seven touchdowns which is seventh-most this year. But the Cowboys are second-best is passing yards allowed at 168 yards per game and also going against Herbert is the Cowboys pass rush.

Herbert has a tendency to give a little too much trust in his protection up front while he scans the field. If he takes too long with the ball, then this spells danger for the Chargers signal-caller. But scanning the field to find the open receiver and deliver is what he does best. He will attack downfield with high confidence and deliver a very catchable ball. Keep an eye on Herbert on the injury report however. He suffered a fractured middle finger on his non-throwing hand against the Las Vegas Raiders. He’s not expected to miss time, but it’s context if his name appears.

Herbert has thrown for more yards, more touchdowns and fewer interceptions than Dak this year. But adding to Herbert’s confidence this week is the fact that the Chargers are playing at home (which is a slight advantage in L.A.), but also last week the Chargers had a bye week. This means Herbert can be even more prepared for the Dallas defense this week.
Win: Chargers

Las Vegas Raiders v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Tony Pollard/Rico Dowdle
Joshua Kelley/Austin Ekeler

Pollard is doing fine as the primary running back. That’s the best way to put things at the moment. He keeps taking handoffs and doing as much as he can, but he’s lacking explosive plays and consistency. He’s great as an extra receiving option on those short, underneath passes which is where most of his chunk plays have come from. Pollard ranks 10th in rushing yards and has the eight-most first downs among running backs. But his two rushing touchdowns rank near the bottom among running backs.

Rico Dowdle has shown to been a good complement to Pollard as the bowling ball type back that’s tough to bring down. He’s currently averaging 3.8 yards per carry but is excelling in scrapping for extra yards when he gets stuck in the trash. The Charger’s defense ranks right in middle of the league in stopping the run, allowing an average of 4.1 yards per carry.

Austin Ekeler is a fantastic dual-threat running back with tremendous burst through the hole. He’s been injured this season however he is expected to play this week. You have to consider how much playing time the coaches will give him if he does suit up this weekend having missed so much time this season. He played Week 1 and hasn’t played since, but that Week 1 production is enough to show you how much of a threat he is. That means currently the lead back for the Chargers is Joshua Kelley, who’s averaging 3.6 yards per carry. Kelley’s running style makes him easy to knock off balance and he doesn’t make many guys miss. His slow speed and agility makes him easy to get hold of which reduces his productivity.

The offense for the Chargers is certainly missing Ekeler and the running production he provides. The Cowboys are averaging more rush yards per game than the Chargers and have a running back in the top-ten in rush yards. The only advantage the Chargers have here is the Cowboys defense ranks 21st in rush yards allowed, and that same defense is set to have players missing for this game due to injury.
Win: Cowboys

New England Patriots v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

CeeDee Lamb/Brandin Cooks/Michael Gallup
Keenan Allen/Joshua Palmer/Quentin Johnston

CeeDee Lamb looked clearly frustrated last week, and with good reason. Four out the first five games this season, Lamb recorded less than five receptions in a game. As the key playmaker on this offense this makes very little sense, and Lamb knows this. To add to his frustration, he’s also trying to play for a new contact which will be playing on his mind. Of all the Cowboys wide receivers, Lamb is the only one getting open with an average of 2.1 yards or separation, that’s 16th-best among wide receivers.

Brandin Cooks, who everyone was excited to have here, has a single-game high this year of 27 receiving yards, which was against New England. The question is why? How much longer Mike McCarthy continues to call games and operate under his scheme will all depend on this weekend. This Chargers defense really struggles against the pass due to so many players that play defensive back being currently out with injury.

Keenan Allen is a fantastic wide receiver that every fan knows. He’s getting long in the tooth at 31 years old. That’s seen him be a little less athletic this year, but he’s still out there competing and he ranks ninth in receiving yards. He is most effective playing from the slot, but that’s not to say he doesn’t play out wide. The problem for Allen at the moment is his supporting cast since Mike Williams was placed on injured reserve.

Their rookie receiver, Quentin Johnston, is still trying to get up to speed. His best game this season came against Las Vegas, where he went for 18 yards and converted one first down. That leaves Joshua Palmer who’s in his third year with the Chargers. He’s replaced Mike Williams role on offense and started to play better in his last game by going for 77 yards. He’s a natural pass catcher at all three levels and does pretty well as a ball carrier. His issues come when beating press coverage and finding separation, something the Cowboys cornerbacks can exploit.

The Cowboys have the better talent here and are facing a much less talented defensive back corps. With the running game for the Chargers not a big threat to the defense like last week, the safeties and corners can concentrate on shutting Allen and Palmer down.
Win: Cowboys

New England Patriots v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Jake Ferguson
Gerald Everett

Jake Ferguson made some tough catches last week which helped the Cowboys convert on the few first downs the offense could muster. Luke Schoonmaker didn’t have a catch although he was open on the first play of the game, only to have Prescott misfire on the pass.

Everett ranks fourth for the Chargers in receiving yards with 107 yards but has yet to score a touchdown. What’s interesting is all three of the Charger’s top receivers all have at least one fumble this year, that includes Everett.

Ferguson has more receiving yards, touchdowns and has been a better blocker so far this year than Everett. With the safeties having a subpar game last week, they will be far more aggressive in stopping anything that comes Everett’s way.
Win: Cowboys

New England Patriots v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Last week was the first time the Cowboys projected starting linemen all played together since 2021. It was a tough game for them to all have to synchronize and compete when facing a solid defensive line. Terence Steele was getting beat pretty easily all game last week, and even Zack Martin gave up a sack which is a rare occurrence. Tyler Smith had his struggles in last week’s game also, with all this pointing to the fact that not only were they facing a top defensive line, but also they had not spent much time playing together. The combination resulted in a lot of pressures and hurries on Dak, which had him running out the tackle box or getting sacked.

This week the line will want to work on its chemistry, which only time can do. The Chargers defensive line isn’t generating a lot of pressure, but what it does is create sacks when they see the chance. It’s no surprise that leading the team in pressures and sacks is Khalil Mack. Roaming behind him is rookie pass rusher Tuli Tuipulotu from USC. Currently, Tuipulotu is taking snaps for Joey Bosa, who is out while he recovers from a hamstring and toe injury.

The Chargers starting center, Corey Linsey missed their last game and was placed on NFI, but he may return this week. Both of the Chargers guards, Zion Johnson and Jamaree Salyer, have given up multiple sacks as well as their starting right tackle Trey Pipkins. Left tackle Rashawn Slater is the only lineman not to have given up a sack, and has only allowed seven pressures this year. The offensive line for the Chargers this year is looking improved from previous seasons, but is facing one of the league’s top pass rushing defenses.

Both offensive lines have allowed nine sacks this year while the Cowboys line has allowed nine more pressures so far. But the Cowboys have played one more game than the Chargers so are delivering at a better rate. As for run blocking, the Cowboys are much more clinical than their Chargers counterparts.
Win: Cowboys


Which team has the better offense?

This poll is closed

  • 36%
    Dallas Cowboys
    (79 votes)
  • 63%
    LA Chargers
    (138 votes)
217 votes total Vote Now

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